Born Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, Joey Bada$$ grew up in Bed-Stuy. As a kid he was into poetry, reading the works of Harlem Renaissance writers and those across the world. The transition to rap was natural: from an early age, Joey brought a careful artist’s eye to what was already familiar to his hometown’s hip-hop audience. At just 17, Joey dropped 1999, the mixtape that launched his career and made him a sensation with fans and critics. He was able to merge the gritty, grisly New York of his childhood (and further back, into the past) with an acrobatic technical skill set. It made him one of the most sought-after young talents in the industry.
Joey’s music is complex, but clear enough to drive home its central messages. Since 1999, Joey’s grown more fluid as a songwriter. His debut album, 2015’s B4.DA.$$, debuted at No. 5 on Billboard and topped the hip-hop charts; it also continued to chip away at the style Joey began exploring a few years earlier, filling in the nooks and crannies with color and detail. It was last year’s All-Amerikkkan Badass that showed his chops as a political writer with a gift for melody, translating his world-wearied observations into unifying anthems.
And yet music is not Joey’s only creative medium. He attended Edward R. Murrow High School, the renowned performing arts center that’s produced Beastie Boys and Oscar winners, Aronofskys and Basquiats, where he studied acting. Since 2016, he’s appeared in a well-reviewed, fan-favorite role on USA Network’s runaway hit show Mr. Robot. (Joey reprises his role in the forthcoming fourth season.) Beyond appearing in front of the camera, Joey hopes, in the next few years, to expand his repertoire and become a writer and director of films, bringing his visions to life on screen as well as on record.
It’s only natural that Joey’s creative success and sheer star power have led him to be an in-demand figure for brands and fashion labels. How many true-school rappers from Bed-Stuy have been interviewed in Vogue about their modeling for Calvin Klein? Joey has also been tapped to endorse the likes of Adidas and American Apparel, and looks to further embody that cultural bleed from park jams to high fashion. In addition to those roles, Joey also serves as the creative director for PONY the sneaker brand with a name perfect for him––Product of New York.
But this year, Joey’s also doubling down on his first love. Pro Era, the collective that he co-founded with his close friends and collaborators, is solidifying its move into the world of formal record labels, providing what Joey assures will be a transparent, artist-friendly label committed to helping its acts grow creatively and feel supported. It’s exactly the kind of incubator hip-hop needs––one that might produce more artists with the skill, vision, and tenacity that Joey Bada$$ has already given us.